When a middle-aged white man stands up in front of an audience and prepares to spend over an hour and a half shouting at you about feminism and multiculturalism, you’d be right to flinch. However, if Brendon Burns’ performance at Fab Café this week taught us anything, it’s that once in a blue moon it’s worth giving the madman with the microphone a chance.Brendon Burns is a comic who’s very much aware that his humour isn’t for everyone: in fact, it’s the entire premise of his new tour ‘Outside of the Box,’ which actively avoids comedy clubs in favour of smaller, more unusual venues where only existing fans of his work would even think to look for him. I guess the idea is that hopefully none of his jokes will end up being taken out of context on Youtube, Tumblr and Twitter and maybe – just maybe – he’ll make it through the tour without a change.org petition emerging, calling for his deportation.
If you don’t enjoy his humour, it’s probably because he’s the intolerable asshole in this situation – not you.
However, there is a key difference between Brendon Burns and the many droves of other “edgy” comedians – Burns doesn’t laude over the controversy. He doesn’t turn to the audience with a smug grin and declare himself a “whistleblower” or “maverick” who the great British public are just too stuffy to “get”. Burns’ philosophy is more that if you don’t enjoy his humour, it’s probably because he’s the intolerable asshole in this situation – not you.
That said, Burns also appears to be doing something much smarter and more interesting than going up on stage and acting like an asshole for an hour and a half like Frankie Boyle. Burns has a spectacular and oddly specific gift – it’s the gift of taking big, scary topics and making us laugh so hard at them that for a moment they don’t seem big and scary at all. That’s not to say that Burns treats these issues flippantly – he deconstructs them with care and intelligence but he doesn’t treat them awkwardly and doesn’t allow them the satisfaction of dividing us. You know that thing your dad would do when you told him you were scared of the monsters hiding under your bed or in your closet? How he’d go around showing you the fear was all in your head and there was nothing there to be truly afraid of? Well, Brendon Burns can do that with Nigel Farage, he can do it with race and gender inequality, with terrorism and with right-wing extremism; it is truly something to behold. So if Brendon is appearing in your hometown and any of this sounds appealing to you – I urge you, go and experience this for yourselves.